WHEN WILL THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB TAKE PLACE?
In order to discuss the question posed in the title of this paper we must understand 1) The Hebrew culture of the New and Old Testament times in regard to marriage 2) Who is the Lamb, 3) who is the bride
1) In the present day western culture when a man marries a woman that woman becomes his wife. So she becomes his wife after the marriage ceremony. But in the Hebrew culture of Old and New Testament times, the woman was called the man’s “wife” when they were engaged, and she became his bride at the end of the marriage ceremony. The man is called “husband” before and after the marriage ceremony and the engaged parties are spoken of as being married, even though they are only engaged. That is why we read, for example in Matt. 1:19 that Joseph is referred to as Mary’s “husband”, even though they had not yet married.
On the other hand, we read in Luke 5:13 that Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, is referred to as a wife. So it seems that the Greek word “gunee” is used of both a married wife and a betrothed woman, and we must determine by the context which is meant.
Also, when two parties are engaged, but do not want to go through with the marriage ceremony, the man may divorce his “wife”.
As the reader will see as we continue in this study, there was a marriage feast before the wife became the bride. This feast, according to E. W. Bullinger, was separated in time by as much as a week. It will become clear as we continue in this study that the Greek word “gamos” is used of a marriage one time, but is usually used of the marriage feast. The English word “wedding’ is used in somewhat the same way as is “gamos”. So in modern terms, when a person is preparing for a wedding, those preparations are usually for the wedding ceremony, or the wedding feast or the feast and ceremony as one event.
2) The Lamb is, of course, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The reader will note that in the Old Testament it is Jehovah Who is the One to be married, but in the New Testament, it is Christ. As the paper on this web-site proves, Jesus Christ is Jehovah, and “Lamb of God” is one of the offices of Jehovah which is fulfilled, of course, by Jesus Christ.
3) Who is the bride? A few Old Testament verses should suffice in answering that question. Consider for example, Jer. 3:14 which reads, “Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married (as will be shown, this is in reference to the engagement) unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion“. It is Israel that God will bring to Zion. It is Israel to whom the Lord is married (engaged). Therefore, it is Israel that will be the bride.
Consider also Isaiah 54:5-6, “For your Maker is your husband– the Lord Almighty is His name- …..The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit- a wife who married (engaged) young, only to be rejected,’ says your God”. Verse 3 gives us a clue as to whom this passage is addressed. That verse reads, “…….thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles….”. Obviously, the contrast is between the Gentiles (should read “nations”) and Israel. So Israel will inherit the nations. It is Israel to whom this passage is spoken and it is Israel that was the wife and will be the bride.
Let us also consider Hosea 2:15b-18, “……and she shall sing there as in the days of her youth and as in the day when she came out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord (Heb. “Jehovah”), that thou shalt call Me Ishi, and shalt call Me no more Baali…..and in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely”. Verse 15 refers to the “day she came out of Egypt”. It was, of course, Israel that came out of Egypt and it is Israel that will call Jehovah “Ishi”, i.e. “my Husband”.
But some believe that the church is the bride of Christ and point to Eph. 5:25-32, “Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it……so ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church”.
Does this passage say that the church is the bride of Christ? I believe that if we consider Paul’s point in this passage we will have our answer. The point is that husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. The relationship of the church to Christ is used as an example of what the relationship is between husband and wife. That is to say, the church is called the “body of Christ”. So the church is one with Christ just as the husband is one with his wife.
In short, the mystery spoken of in this chapter is not that the church is the bride of Christ, it is that the relationship of the church to Christ is the same as the relationship of the husband to his wife, i.e. they are one body.
WHEN IS THE MARRIAGE OF THE LAMB?
Was Israel Married In Old Testament Times?
Because of the Hebrew custom of referring to engaged parties as “husband” and “wife”, many assume that Israel had been married in Old Testament times. In fact, we read in Jer. 3:14 reads, “Turn O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you……”. Many take this verse, and others, to mean that Jehovah had married Israel in Old Testament times. There are several reasons for my belief that Israel had not been married in Old Testament times.
1) We read in Deut. 24:1-3 “When a man hath taken a wife and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, …. Then let him write her a bill o f divorcement and give it in her hand and send her out of the house. And when she has departed out of his house she may go and be another mans’ wife. And if the latter husband hate her and write her a bill of divorcement…..her former husband which sent her away may not take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled….”. The phrase “hath taken a wife and married her” tells us that in this passage “wife” refers not to a betrothed, but to a wife after the marriage was consummated. So we learn from this passage that once a husband has divorced his wife and she has defiled herself with another man, the first husband may not take her back.
Now let us consider Hosea. Hosea 1:8-10 speaks of Hosea’s children representing what will come upon Israel. We read then in 2:2, “…. for she is not My wife and I am not her Husband. Let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight and her adulteries from between her breasts.”. In other words, Jehovah divorced Israel (see also Is. 50:1) as a warning to her. How do we know that? We read in Hosea 1:2-3, “…let her therefore put away her whoredoms…..lest I strip her naked and place her as in the day that she was born….”. My point is that Israel was divorced and then she went to other lovers. But we know, of course that at the end of the 70 year captivity, God took her back as His “wife”
But Deut.24 forbids a husband from taking back a divorced wife after she had been with another. We must conclude, therefore, that Israel had not been married to God, but betrothed to Him. That is to say, because the Mosaic Law forbids a man from taking back his divorced wife after she had been with another, we must conclude that God did not break that law (there is no precedence to conclude that He would have). Therefore, since, as we learned from Hosea, God did indeed divorce His “wife” and she had indeed been with others, and God did take her back, it must have been as His betrothed “wife”.
2) Israel is never spoken of as a bride until Rev. 22:17 where we read, “And the spirit and the bride say, ‘Come….'”.
3) As the reader continues in this study, it will become clear that the wedding feast will begin at the second coming of Christ and the wife will become the bride after the millennium.
The Wedding Feast
We read in Rev. 19:7, “For the marriage (Gr. “Gamos”) of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready”. How are we to understand the term “wife” in this verse? That is to say, does it mean a married wife as in the case of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, or a betrothed “wife” as in the case of Mary? I believe we must understand it as first century Jews would have understood it? Bearing in mind that first century Jews would have known that Israel was the betrothed “wife”of God at least through the Old Testament, I believe we may conclude that first century Jews would have understood this verse as referring to God’s betrothed.
It is clear from the context that this verse is in reference to the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. So this verse seems to tell us that the “marriage” of Christ is at His coming. But we read in Rev. 21:9, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels……..saying, ‘ Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife'”. What John was shown by this angel is described in verse 10, “And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”. So this verse tells us that Israel will be the bride of Christ as the new Jerusalem, which represents Israel as the bride, descends out of of heaven to the new earth. This is , of course after the millennium.
In other words, Rev. 19:7 seems to tell us that the marriage is at the second coming of Christ, i.e. before the millennium, and Rev. 21:9-10 tells us that it is after the millennium that Israel is the bride. There are no contradictions in the Word of God. I believe a comparison of Rev. 19:7 with 19:9 will help solve this seeming contradiction. Rev. 19:9 reads, “…..Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb”. Rev. 19:7 and 9 are parallel verses, i.e. they explain each other. By putting them together we learn that verse 7 refers to the marriage supper, or feast. That is to say, it is the marriage feast of the Lamb that is come. If we are to fully understand this concept of the marriage feast we must consider each of the occurrences of the Greek word “gamos” translated “marriage” in Rev. 19:7 and 9.
Matt. 22:2-4, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, which made a marriage (Gr. “gamos”) for his son. 3) And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding (Gr. “gamos”) and they would not come. 4) Again he sent forth other servants saying, ‘Tell them which are bidden, ‘Behold, I have prepared my dinner: and my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage (Gr. “gamos”) “.
Matt. 22:8-12, “Then saith he to his servants, the wedding (Gr. “gamos”) is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9) go ye therefore into the highways and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage‘ (Gr. “gamos”). 10) So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all, as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding (Gr. “gamos”) was furnished with guests. 11) And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding (Gr. “gamos”) garment: 12) And he saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding (Gr. “gamos”) garment?”
It is clear from verse 4 (“I have prepared my dinner“) that it is the marriage feast to which many were invited and the entire parable concerns the marriage feast.
Matt. 25:10, “And while they (the virgins of the parable of the ten virgins) went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage (Gr. “gamos”)….”. Given that this is a parable about being ready for the second coming of Christ, and that Rev. 19:9 tells us that it is the wedding supper that will be prepared, I believe that here too “gamos” refers to the marriage feast.
Luke 12:36-37, “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding (Gr. “gamos”) that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37) Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will comfort and serve them”. Given that we are told that they will “sit down to meat” I believe we may conclude that in this passage “gamos” is the marriage feast.
Luke 14:8, “When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding (Gr. “gamos”), sit not down in the highest room…….”. Verse 10 gives us our clue that here too “gamos” is used of the wedding feast. That verse reads, “….then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee”.
John 2:1-2, “and in the third day there was a marriage (Gr. “gamos”) in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2) And both Jesus was called and His disciples, to the marriage (Gr. “gamos”). 3) And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, ‘They have no wine'”. Again the clue as to the meaning of “gamos” is found in the immediate context. The entire record of this sign that Jesus performed, is in the context of a marriage feast.
Heb. 13:4, “Marriage (Gr. “gamos”) is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled…..”. In this verse I believe the word “gamos” is used of the institution of marriage.
I believe a consideration of the word “supper” in Rev. 19:9 is in order. The Greek word translated “supper” in Rev. 19:9 is “dipnon”. I Cor. 11:20-21 will be helpful. That passage reads, “When you come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper (“dipnon”). For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper (“dipnon”); and one is hungry and another is drunken”. In my opinion, “dipnon” refers to the actual meal, while “gamos” refers to the feast as an event which includes the dipnon, i.e. the supper. Consider also Luke 14:17, “….When thou makest a dinner or a supper (“dipnon”)….”.
Before we come to any conclusions about “gamos” let us consider the only passage in the Bible that speaks of Israel as the bride, i.e. the “bride” as opposed to the” wife”. We read in Rev. 21:9-10 “And there came unto me one of the seven angels……..saying, ‘ Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife'”. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”.
We are now ready to consider the two seemingly contradictory verses of Revelation 19 and 21. Again, we read in Rev. 19:7,”For the marriage (Gr. “gamos”) of the Lamb is come and His wife hath made herself ready”. But we read in Rev. 21:9-10, “And there came unto me one of the seven angels……..saying, ‘ Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife'”. And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.” I believe that all is clear once we see that the marriage feast and the marriage are one event.
There is admittedly a temptation after considering the occurrences of “gamos” to think of the marriage feast as a separate event than the marriage. But I do not believe that to be the case for two reasons. 1) I cannot find, either in the Old or in the New Testament, any mention of a marriage ceremony. That leads me to believe that the actual marriage is part of the marriage feast. 2) “Gamos” is used of both the marriage feast and marriage as an institution. Therefore I believe that the marriage feast and the marriage itself is one event.
Because Israel is not referred to as “bride” until after the millennium we must conclude that the marriage itself comes at the end, as opposed to the beginning, of the marriage feast.
In short, the marriage of the Lamb begins with the marriage feast at the second coming of Christ, and Israel becomes His bride after the millennium. Can we say that the marriage feast will last the 1,000 years of the millennial reign of Christ? Perhaps so.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at:firstname.lastname@example.org